Cover Stories

Arty Party: Contemporary Art Museum

Every other year, the Contemporary Art Museum-St. Louis pays homage to the avant-garde with its Dada Ball & Bash, an eccentric, costumed, fund-raising party that supports its programs and exhibitions.

Dada, or Dadaism, was an early 20th-century movement in art, music, literature and film that poked fun at convention and celebrated the absurd. Appropriately, CAM’s Dada Ball offers guests an evening to show off their outlandish sides, says Jimmy Jamieson, co-chair of the 2017 event, to be held Feb. 11 at Palladium and Joule in Soulard. “People go all-out on their costumes,” he says. “They show up with very elaborate outfits, or in varying states of dress or undress. They run the gamut from non-costume to ‘uber-costume.’” Jamieson says guests have arrived looking tarred and feathered, taped like a mummy or wearing an exquisitely tailored paper suit. “People also come up with conceptual outfits that reflect current news and style trends,” he says. “Many keep their costumes secret until the event.”

Jamieson says he and hicam_ss_12s co-chairs—Alison Ferring, Sue McCollum and Susan Sherman—have been involved with the Dada Ball for many years because they make a cohesive team and share a strong belief in the museum’s purpose. “We just think it’s fun to work together,” he says. “And we’re all busy people who travel, so it makes it easier having a few different voices involved.”

The event includes dinner, dancing, cocktails, different genres of music and an after-party. Tables are decorated by local fashion, design and architecture firms. “We’ve been doing this event since 2002, so the Dada Ball really has become its own brand in St. Louis,” Jamieson says.

Sherman views the party as a learning experience and great source of fun. “We learn about what Dada is, what it means, how people expressed it and why it’s really relevant now,” she says. “Some of my favorite moments include [former CAM director] Paul Ha’s duct-tape jacket, and the year a guest rode in on a horse.”

Ferring loves seeing how the ball brings out guests’ adventurous natures. “You get to discover people’s alter egos,” she says. “The Dada Ball & Bash is never staid; it’s active. It demands your participation.” It also attracts a number of young, creative St. Louisans to spark new interest in the museum, she notes.

The ball is a perfect fit for the eclectic cultural scene CAM represents, according to McCollum. “It fits the context of the museum—interesting, unexpected, current, engaging, inclusive,” she says. Just like the artists who exhibit at CAM, the ball is “an array of personalities on display.”

The Dada Ball & Bash, to be held Feb. 11, 2017, raises funds for the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis in Grand Center, whose mission is to create meaningful engagement with the most relevant and innovative art of today. For more information on the ball, call the museum at 314.535.4660 or visit

Pictured: Drag queen Siren
Cover design provided by CAM